Zynga is launching its first strategy combat game Empires & Allies, as the company itself evolves and it develops more advanced games.
While Zynga is reportedly preparing to file for an IPO, the new game provides more fully developed characters and deeper game play, showing future possible directions for the company.
The game could also provide a boost for user growth, which has been stable but has not shown major growth in recent months from its already massive 240 million-plus monthly active users.
Empires & Allies has some similarities to CityVille, one of the company's recent hits, in that people can build military structures and farms to produce resources.
But this is more of a combat game. The back story is that the Evil Dark Alliance has invaded and destroyed your island nation. The objective of the game is to rebuild and then defeat the bad guy, The Raven.
The game is more narrative than previous Zynga games. Along the way you progress through 15 islands with different characters, evil (Captain Krunsch, Kai Tana, Dirk Digger and Kung Fucius) and good (Scarlett, Slick, Riptide and his dog Cybark), each with its own back story.
"It's the first time we've included a story of this depth from Zynga," Amer Ajami, executive producer of the game.
With DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg now a board member, it'll be interesting to see if Zynga takes these highly developed characters into licensing or entertainment spin-offs.
Zynga's last game, Cityville, included some narrative elements, such as the ability to get married, have children, and the like. But this game goes further.
Empires & Allies' social game mechanics go further than previous Zynga games by adding the ability for people to fight against each other. When you visit a friend's island, you can attack via air, sea or land to collect extra points for the game.You can then choose which types of military ships or planes to use in the attack.
People also need to trade with friends to get resources such as oil, copper, iron and uranium, in order to build their empires.
Previous Zynga games enabled players to help a friend grow crops by clicking on them or collect rent on behalf of them. But what you could actually do with friends in the games was actually pretty limited compared to what can be done in Empires & Allies.
The new game is designed to have similar lengths of engagement time as other Zynga games, said Ajami.
"Even though it's larger in scope than previous Zynga games, it's designed in a way so that you can play in short spurts of time: 5 to 15 minutes," Ajami said.
Empire & Allies is also the first game out of Zynga's Los Angeles studio. It's also the largest international launch, with a launch in 12 languages. The game will be available tomorrow.
Despite the combat aspects of the game, the look and feel of Empires & Allies is very Zynga-y. Even though you're fighting, it's not a hardcore military game. It looks more like light combat--as if Tom and Jerry were shooting each other. The game is meant for a mainstream audience across all demographics, Ajami said.
"Just because there's a layer of combat in the game doesn't mean it's a hardcore game meant for a specific audience," Ajami said. "The game looks bright, colorful and cartoony and friendly to interact with. It's designed in a way to have a very broad appeal that can pull in any kind of player. It's not a dark and dreary game."
Empires & Allies will monetize similarly to other Zynga games, with players being able to buy items or boost their ability to finish levels through virtual goods. Zynga recently released a slew of marketing tie-ins for Lady Gaga's new album, as it seeks to build out its popular in-game promotions.
- back story
- Tom and Jerry
- Los Angeles